Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sims just managed to break my brain.

Chris Sims found something in the back of his monthly Tarot research and just had to send it to me. It seems Balent weighed in on industry attitudes towards female readers.

For those of you who (understandably) can't read the scan, a male reader asks Balent why the lettercol always focuses on women, and sends his picture in, asking for a column about Guys instead.
The reason we celebrate Girls/Women at Broadsword is mainly because I was told by the so-called "Know-It-Alls" in the industry that female [readers] really don't read comics. While other companies ignore their female readers we glorify them.
Balent compromises by putting the guy at the bottom as the "Do you have dude."

As Sims would say, that was the sound of your mind being blown.

Anyway, before we get lost in a sea of confusion, Balent-bashing, Boobie jokes and feminist analysis of Tarot (which could take weeks), there are some things to keep in mind:

1) Tarot is an adult title and was concieved as such, is written and drawn as such, and is viewed as such by most casual readers.

2) In my personal experience with Tarot readers, I've only met female readers except for Chris), and there was a post by a shopkeeper a while back (that I can't find, but I know its out there) about how he sold a lot of Tarot to female fans. Those are both anecdotal impressions, but the complaint above was that the lettercol is female-dominated, which supports it.

3) I'm finding it really impossible not believe him when he says some know-it-all told him women don't read comics after all the backlash we've seen.

Now on one hand this is Jim "Boobie" Balent and that could be just a smooth way of telling the guy "I'd rather print naked and scantily clad girls, thank you." There's much argument to be had over whether this comic celebrates women or not.

On the other hand, "I have lots of female readers and they send me positive feedback" with the ability to back it up is quite a change from the usual "This is aimed at boys, so you shouldn't be offended" and "You're losing sight of the strength of the character by being offended" we hear when industry professionals talk about women and comic books.

There's also something in here about female spaces, male spaces and neutral spaces, but I'm not familiar enough with the Tarot lettercol to speculate on just what it is.

Now that that's been said: Bring on the confusion, feminist analysis of Tarot, Balent-bashing, and Boobie jokes!

Or feel free to say nice things, too.


  1. Tarot is wonderful. After the feminist revolution, I'm chaining Jim Balent to a workstation and making him pump out Tarot all day, every day.

  2. Well, there's one guy that reads it... every time I start to drop it he does something with an actual plot.

    -- Jack of Spades

  3. I believe that the "post by a shopkeeper" about Tarot that you might have been thinking of is this one by Dorian:


  4. Well someone besides Sims is reading it, because he is still churning it out.

  5. Obviously Balent has a boobie fixation, but aside from indulging that as a marketing point, it's hard to really find fault with Tarot. Most of the cast are female, are strong and empowered, and have a lot of consensual sex.

    He even has some body shape variation. It's within a limited range that stays well within "teh seksi", but that still puts him ahead of the majority of mainstream superhero artists.

    So yeah, I can easily believe he has a high proportion of female readers.

    I'm just slightly baffled why he can't draw a vagina properly.

  6. Tarot is a horrible comic book, and I'm not entirely sure how having women completely naked for the entire issue brings in female readers. That said, your point is interesting in that the letter column IS dominated by women and at the end of the latest issue, there's a two-page Wiccan ritual written by a woman who isn't wearing any pants (and I'm not being funny; she's really not). So women do read it, I'm just not sure why. I'm not entirely sure why men would read it, either.

    The thing about Balent (who's a swell guy, apparently) is that he has an extremely devoted fan base who buys anything he does, and more power to him. It's a tiny little book that very few people outside of his fan base even know about, so Tarot's ridiculous breast size (her two counterparts in this comic are very realistic, so good job, Jim!) and penchant for taking off her clothes shouldn't bother anyone. Tarot is certainly a hell of a lot less offensive than certain covers and statues that DC and Marvel are putting out these days.

  7. Hippokrene says "pump." Phillip says "churn."

    I'd bet that he pumps more than churns, but I guess everybody has they're own style.

  8. Oh, heck -- it should probably be "his".

  9. My cousin was a bit above the level of casual comics reader, but one of the titles she picked up was the original Chaos! Comics "Lady Death." I know she read the comic just because of her love for camp and trash culture, but she also mentioned that the character appealed to her because - and this is not an exact quote, because this is from a conversation held about a year ago - it was refreshing to see a female character who was both overtly sexual and very aggressive and dominant.

  10. I find it odd that people question the appeal of Tarot to women. Does anyone watch a James Bond flick and say, "He's a gorgeous guy who constantly is part of amazing adventures and has people tossing themselves as his feet for sexin' - why would men be interested in that?!"

  11. I think if Bond flicks featured a lot of full frontal male nudity (and almost exclusively male nudity) they wouldn't appeal to guys the way they do now.

  12. Yeah, but I think the comics blogosphere has established that men find other men's bits threatening in a way that women just aren't terrified by the bits of other women.

  13. In the Anecdotal Evidence Department, when I was in graphic design, there was a woman in classes with me who was OBSESSED with Lady Death and even had a Lady Death tattoo.

    Or was planning to get one... I forget which. She explained that she liked it for the same reasons cited above- overtly sexual, powerful woman.

    So I can believe Balent has a fanbase of female fans. On the other hand, whether or not they're seeing the same things in this that everyone else is is a matter for another post.

  14. Joel -- Well, Balent's female fanbase is my favorite argument against the female hive-vagina assumption.

  15. Okay -- why is it that "hivemind" doesn't make me think of honey, but "hive-vagina" does?

  16. every time I start to drop it he does something with an actual plot.


    Obviously Balent has a boobie fixation, but aside from indulging that as a marketing point, it's hard to really find fault with Tarot.


    Stop, seriously, you guys are killin' me over here!

  17. "Yeah, but I think the comics blogosphere has established that men find other men's bits threatening in a way that women just aren't terrified by the bits of other women."

    Plus there's the whole bit where it's not generally something we have a choice about. Which is why the "then don't buy it!" arguments are so frustrating.

    What am I supposed to do, go live as a hermit far way from civilization and any bit of pop culture?

    ps - I've never read a single issue of Tarot, but you all are making me both really scared and really curious.